Recently in the article, “What ingredients are necessary for spiritual growth?” there were three ingredients mentioned. The three ingredients are: 1) God’s Word, 2) God’s Spirit and 3) human faith. Spiritual growth is a grace action of God that is completely and totally about what the Lord Jesus Christ directs for the believer.
What happens if one of these ingredients is missing? It’s rather simple – nothing will happen. There will be no growth. Why is this important? It is important to ensure that all three ingredients are in the mix of your Christian walk. If you remove one of the ingredients necessary to make a cake, you will not get a puffy substance that people enjoy. It will probably be a flat tasteless mess. The same is true with spiritual ingredients.
For example, the first ingredient, God’s Word is essential. Remove the ingredient and you will have no standard by which to establish strength, correctness or stability in growth. God provided people with communication gifts to explain God’s Word so the body of Christ could be built strong. Paul wrote,
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, (Eph. 4:11-14 NKJ)
The Word of God is living and powerful and supplies spiritual nutrition for growth. Jesus quoted Moses during His temptations saying, ““It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’“(Matt. 4:4) Just as physical food is important for physical life, so spiritual food is important for spiritual growth.
Some people try to grow by only the other two ingredients – God’s Spirit and human faith. When these are the only two ingredients used, then the life will be a roller coaster of ups and downs often characterized by emotional living. Emotions are important as indicators that something may be good or wrong, just like warning lights on a car dashboard indicate something is wrong or urgently wrong, but without the stability of God’s Word, emotions will drive the life, instead of God’s Word. The problem is the warning light by itself may not tell the whole story and further analysis is necessary. God’s Word is the source to analyze any problem in life. If the Word is not consulted, then decisions and solutions will be made based on experience rather that the stability and completeness of God’s Word.
The second ingredient, God’s Spirit, is equally essential. Remove the ingredient and you will have no basis for understanding the first ingredient, God’s Word, and there will be no life by which to live out God’s Word. Basically, you will have human effort “laboring” to understand divine revelation and human effort “laboring” to obey God’s Word. Paul explains the importance of God’s Spirit, “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of humanwisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”(1 Cor. 2:4) Paul could have spoken truth, but there would be little effect without the Spirit’s power. Additionally, Peter explains, “To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven– things which angels desire to look into.” (1 Pet. 1:12) It is the Holy Spirit making clear the grace gospel message. Without the Spirit, we would be like unbelievers who cannot understand spiritual things as Paul clearly states, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”(1 Cor. 2:14)
Some people try to grow by only the other two ingredients – God’s Word and human faith. They will become knowledgeable like self-righteous Pharisees, but lack godliness, because they do not have the Spirit’s convicting work for holiness. Nor do they have genuine holiness, because they lack the sanctifying work of the Spirit. They will often be stoic “Bible” answer men, yet lack the grace and power for life as Paul stated, “…having a form of godliness but denying its power.”(2Ti 3:5) All of their actions will be by human strength and dependent upon their personality or temperament. There will be no eternal rewards, because of a lack of the Spirit’s empowerment which provides intrinsic good works.
The third ingredient, human faith, is the one human element. Faith is non-meritorious in that there is no merit given for faith decisions. There is no human merit for salvation or sanctification. There is no divine glory for faith, because it is solely based on divine empowerment. John writes,
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13 NKJ)
In other words, salvation is solely dependent on the sovereign work of God, but without faith there is no salvation. The same is true during the Christian life. Paul wrote, “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him…”(Col. 2:6) So, while the Christian makes obedient choices, there is no merit to the believer who is spiritually alive, but dead in Christ and Jesus lives through him, as Paul states, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”(Gal. 2:20)
No one can grow apart from faith. God desires that all come to faith and live by the power of His Spirit, but He does not coerce anyone against his will (faith). Whether someone rejects God’s provision or His power, there will be no spiritual growth. The person may be a brilliant sports figure or charismatic politician, but without faith, there is no glory given to God and no reward for eternity.
Always make conscious decisions to read God’s Word by humble dependence upon God’s Spirit. Otherwise, it becomes a book of literature instead of a powerful letter of God’s love, a strategic battle plan for life and a spiritual tool for resolving every conflict and challenge of life. Grasp and exercise with these ingredients and you will spiritually and exponentially grow.